Artificial Intelligence Applications: Unleashing its Potential in Africa

This piece, collectively penned by Cohort 4 of the Advanced Data Science class at JENGA School, highlights the relevance of Artificial Intelligence, datafication and algorithmization for Africans and even captures some great application areas.

Algorithmization everywhere!

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK this year charged Clearview AI  with a fine of £17m for gathering people’s photos from Facebook without permission.

In the digital age, this is not uncommon. Over the last few years, a number of big tech companies have been slammed with fines in the West for privacy breaches. Companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google among others have had privacy and security breaches or poor data practices, which has resulted in hefty fines and penalties. However, such measures don’t seem to be taken in Africa, whose data is being used illegally. 

With Africa being the engine room of tech talent to the world, it is important to engage the continent in the digital technology space as owners and creators of content and not just users. The datafication and algorithmization of the information superhighway means that Africans should claim their position in data generation, product creation, and ownership.

How, you ask? Let’s find out.

Author: Dr. Lawrence Nderu

How can Africa Take Advantage of Datafication and Artificial Intelligence?

There is a wealth of data lying within the African continent. With the data comes exciting opportunities for African countries to build and leverage new and existing AI to develop fascinating applications.

In Kenya, we are already seeing companies take advantage of the growing demand for AI to help companies scale. A prime example is AIfluence, a leading startup that uses AI to power its influencer marketing platform. The company leverages AI to optimize and scale global influencer marketing strategies. Pretty cool, right?

In addition, we can now see AI being used in fleet management and optimization. Swivl, the Egyptian startup, is notable for its employment of AI to ensure timely coordination of buses allowing commuters to schedule pickups and dropoffs simply through a few phone taps.

Apollo Agriculture is an agricultural platform that uses agronomic machine learning mobile technology to access credit and give customized advice to help farmers advance their farming methods and eventually increase their profits.

In Cameroon, farmers are using a smartphone-enabled AI app to save their crops. Farmers use the app to take photos of ailing fruit and within seconds get relevant information on the nature of the disease and the treatment to be used. Further, the app developed by a local start-up Agrix Tech also caters to the high illiteracy rates among farmers and offers options to read out loud the treatment instructions in the local dialect.
Author: James Mwaura

How Geospatial Data and Machine Learning can Solve African Problems

Did you know that the recent aim to attain the global SDGs by the United Nations has led to the need and sudden drive to build smart cities? This necessitates the need to harness spatial data and thereby grow a spatial data infrastructure for every country. Having a Geospatial Data Infrastructure (GDI) coupled with the growth of data science and deep learning could allow for the improvement of socio-economic planning and development of many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Satellite images could be analyzed and models trained to show different aspects of a country such as its infrastructure, agricultural prowess, and utilities among others. The eventual constant monitoring of these could then be done by the use of transfer learning of the already pre-trained models.
Author: Joe Mumo

There is a Need to Reinforce Data Science in Africa

Globally, data science continues to positively influence various aspects of life from healthcare, finance, education, and transportation among others. These same areas also pose similar challenges and opportunities within the African continent and it is therefore imperative that their solutions be spearheaded by Africans.

Local data science academicians and researchers should lead the way in creating data-driven solutions to the local prevalent problems; chief among them being bolstering food security, enhancing healthcare access and equity, and transforming transport infrastructure.

It is crucial that Africa is not left from the discourse around this subject of Data Science as its importance to the continent cannot be stressed enough.
Author: Donald Nyandika

Conclusion 

The pursuit of datafication and algorithmization in Africa should be deliberate across all sectors. The increasing absorption of technology and digitization in Africa proves that Africa is ripe for the needed AI and machine learning solutions.

Africa has enough data, we only need to optimize its use and utilize the existing skills to solve the African problems such as limited access to healthcare, education, poor transport, and climatic changes, among others. The existing data needs to be put in order and sufficiently used to provide lasting solutions to Africa’s prevalent challenges.

However, there is a huge shortage of skilled data scientists to deliver these solutions. Data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence skill-based institutions are a much-needed resource to help close this skills gap. 

Fortunately, institutions like JENGA School have already taken up the challenge to develop more technical skills in data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence that will see Africa advance in datafication and algorithmization. 
Author: Alfred Mwangangi

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